History Pix

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, the photographs in our holdings have a lot to say. We’re digging up photos of iconic moments in our past and will share the story behind them all. Here you’ll find all the pictures you may have missed from past weeks – or the ones you want to see again!

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Rising Voices and Votes

Many African American men and women voted for the first time in 1966, following the passage of the 24th Amendment, which abolished poll taxes for national elections, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In this photograph, African Americans line up at a polling place in 1966, many for the first time, in Peach Tree, Alabama.

Congress passed Civil Rights Acts in 1957, 1960, and 1964, but none of these laws were strong enough to prevent voting discrimination by local officials. Many Americans and members of Congress began to wonder if existing civil rights laws would ever be properly enforced by the local authorities. The question before Congress was whether the federal government should guarantee the right to vote by assuming the power to register voters. Since qualifications for voting were traditionally set by state and local officials, federal voting rights protection represented a significant change in the constitutional balance of power between the states and the federal government.

Understand Our Urgency

As President during the thick of the civil rights movement, John F. Kennedy crossed paths with countless individuals who helped shape the future. An oral histories project conducted by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library interviewed leaders like Thurgood Marshall and James Baldwin, as well as hundreds of other lesser known African Americans, like Ruth Batson.

Reformer from Head to Toe

Amelia Bloomer accomplished much in her life, including the legacy of the so-called Bloomer costume. As a social activist and suffragist, she advocated for change in women’s fashion. Bloomers, or trousers underneath a short skirt, fit “The Move Toward Rational Dress.” Because of the restrictiveness of corsets and dresses of the time, bloomers became a suffragist staple. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our women’s suffrage commemoration in August.

Capturing the American West

Renowned photographer Ansel Adams contributed greatly to highlighting the wonders of the national parks and the American West. After he received his first camera at age 12 and photographed Yosemite National Park, Adams’ interest in photography continued to grow. In 1941, he was contracted by the Department of the Interior to create a photo mural of the national parks. The project was never completed due to America’s entry into World War II, but Adams’ iconic photos live on at the National Archives.

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An Activist for Life

On August 28, 1963, a 12-year-old girl named Edith Lee-Payne participated in the March on Washington, where photographer Rowland Scherman snapped her picture.

Fifty-seven years later, the photograph from the march hangs in the National Archives’ permanent exhibit Records of Rights and has become an iconic symbol of that historic day.

Ms. Lee-Payne did not discover herself in this photograph until 2008, more than 40 years after it was taken. Hear from Edith Lee-Payne on the story of her finding herself in the National Archives.

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Henceforward Shall Be Free

In this 1947 photograph, Sally Fickland, the oldest living former slave in the country at the time, looks at the Emancipation Proclamation on the Freedom Train.

Guess Which Presidents Were Given These Gifts

For decades, foreign leaders and the American people have showered the President of the United States with gifts. These gifts often become relics of past diplomacy and symbols of each president’s administration and unique personalities. Guess which presidents these gifts were given to and see the answers below!

1. President Gerald Ford: President Ford was interested in sports throughout his life and ranks as one of the most athletic presidents of all time. He was particularly fond of football, excelling in both high school and college at the University of Michigan. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum preserves an array of footballs given to Ford by admirers and left as memorials upon his passing. Some reflect Gerald R. Ford’s playing days, others his time as a coach.

This particular football was signed and gifted to Ford by the 1976 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

2. President Lyndon Baines Johnson: President Johnson was known as a champion of Civil Rights throughout his administration. LBJ pushed three civil rights bills through Congress, outlawing voter literacy tests and discrimination in employment, public places, and housing. He also appointed the first African American to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall.

This painting was a gift given to President Johnson by the Honorable William Benton of New York in recognition for his work in Civil Rights.

3. President Richard Nixon: This Cloisonné liqueur set was a gift to President Nixon from Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In May 1972 the two leaders of the world’s most powerful countries met to sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreement. By restricting missile production in the United States and the Soviet Union, Nixon and Brezhnev hoped to reduce the threat of war between the two nations.

Cloisonné, a difficult technique of soldering and enamel painting––and a specialty of Russian craftsmen––is a favorite gift of Russian leaders.

4. President Herbert Hoover: This wood model of San Francisco was a gift from James Rolph, the former Governor of California.

Although born in Iowa, President Hoover had many ties to northern California. He graduated from Stanford University, landed his first engineering job in San Francisco, and married his wife, Lou Henry, at her parents’ home in Monterey. Governor Rolph sent this model of San Francisco to the President as an invitation to return to California for a 1932 Shriners’ convention.

5. President Jimmy Carter: This gold necklace––the Great Order of the Nile–– was given to President Carter by Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt.

President Carter helped to negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel after 31 years of war. When Carter visited Egypt in 1979, President Sadat, by then a good friend, presented Carter with this gift, Egypt’s highest honor.

6. President John F. Kennedy: This model of the PT-109 was given to President Kennedy by Albert Hanson of Woodbridge, New Jersey in 1961. The gift was a tribute to the President’s bravery as a young Naval Reserve officer during World War II.

In August 1943, Kennedy was commander of the PT-109 and on ocean patrol near the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. A Japanese destroyer rammed and sank the boat; two men were killed, and Kennedy and the rest of the crew were tossed into flaming water. Towing an injured sailor, whose life vest he clenched in his teeth, Kennedy led his men in a 4-hour swim to safety.

Words From Ground Zero

President George W. Bush visited Ground Zero in New York City on September 14, 2001. Using a bullhorn to inspire first responders, the President said, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.” Responding to the President’s words, rescue workers cheered and chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The bullhorn is one of many iconic artifacts found among the holdings at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Service in Style

On more than one occasion, First Lady Pat Nixon said, “People are my project.” The former First Lady was committed to serving our nation throughout her life. She was particularly passionate about the Red Cross, volunteering as a secretary in the early 1940s and continuing to support the organization over time. The Nixon Presidential Library has the actual Red Cross uniforms the First Lady wore during her volunteer days.

Women of the Red Cross

The neatly aligned rows of white markers at the Normandy American Cemetery in France instantly evoke a sense of mourning for the 9,387 Americans interred at this very spot. But in addition to the thousands of male soldiers who lost their lives on this beach, one marker reads: Elizabeth A. Richardson, American Red Cross, Indiana, July 25, 1945.

Elizabeth “Liz” Richardson was a 25 year-old who finished college and joined the Red Cross in 1944 to help the American war effort in World War II. Liz was stationed in Great Britain a “clubmobile”––or a single-decker bus fitted with coffee and doughnut-making equipment. Her job was to lift the morale and spirit of homesick GIs by operating these recreation clubs.

Though her role was removed from the frontlines, Liz and the women of the Red Cross played critical roles in World War II and will not be forgotten.

At the Le Havre airport on the morning of July 25, 1945, Elizabeth Richardson jumped into a two-seat military plane to fly to Paris. Near Rouen the plane crashed. Liz and the pilot, Sgt. William R. Miller of the Ninth Air Force, died instantly. She was 27 years old.

Read the Full Story

Photo 1: Liz posed with a coffee urn and a smile in the very cold winter of December 1944, at Camp Dane Ghyell in northern England. (Courtesy Charles Richardson, Jr.)

Photo 2: Elizabeth A. Richardson, American Red Cross Volunteer, 1944. (Courtesy Anne Bodle Schuknecht)

Photo 3: Liz Richardson (left) and Mary Haynsworth with smiling GIs in front of their Clubmobile in Normandy. Liz sent the snapshot to her parents on June 4, 1945, noting that the blur in her left hand is a doughnut. (Courtesy of James H. Madison)

Too Cool for School

Did you know President John F. Kennedy had a reputation as a troublemaker during high school? At his boarding school in Connecticut, he was in a group nicknamed the “Muckers” after the school’s headmaster used this term to discipline the boys. During his senior year, Kennedy was nearly expelled from school for his antics, but after disbanding the group, he was allowed to stay. Notably, Kennedy still managed to graduate in the middle of his class but was voted “most likely to succeed” by his classmates. 👍

Mothers in Chief: Women Who Raised the Rulers of Our Nation

Do you recognize these special moms and their sons? Take your best shot at naming these mothers and their youngsters before they became Presidents of the United States and we’ll announce the answers soon!

A Deep Ocean of Secrets

It’s no secret that the dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio (aka “King of the World”) captured the hearts of young girls everywhere with the 1997 movie “Titanic.” But in addition to featuring a heart throb, the movie was inspired by the historic tragedy of the ship’s sinking in 1912. Peruse these Archives records documenting the real “ship of dreams” and the passengers aboard her, including the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.”



Go inside the vaults to learn more with the National Archives:

Can I have your PAW-togragh?

After President Ford acquired Liberty the golden retriever in 1974, people began sending her fan mail and requesting her autograph. At first, Dorothy Downton, who served as personal secretary to President Ford, produced photographs “autographed” by Liberty. Dorothy would bring Liberty into her office and press her paw on an inkpad so the pooch could “sign” each letter. Liberty was a good sport but as the fan mail continued to grow, the Fords needed a new plan.

The White House staff made a copy of Liberty’s pawprint, turned it into a rubber stamp, and began stamping her “autograph” onto photographs. This image shows the form letter used to answer these requests and the one above is a paw-tographed photographs.

Source: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

Preparing for Blastoff

Getting ready to go to the moon takes years of rigorous training and testing. During a December 1969 simulation, astronauts James Lovell,l Jr. (right) and Fred W. Haise, Jr. trained for the Apollo 13 mission in Kapoho, Hawaii. In this photo, Lovell and Haise practice with Apollo Lunar Hand Tools as part of a lunar surface traverse exercise.

The Apollo 13 crew also had to practice extravehicular activity, or moonwalking, in their space suits while carrying heavy equipment to get them ready for their mission.

Learn how the Apollo 11 crew trained for their mission!

Malice & Margarine

This 1915 mugshot depicts a man in federal prison for crimes against…butter. Yep, you heard that right. The Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, housed its fair share of infamous inmates, such as “Birdman of Alcatraz” and Machine Gun Kelly. But in the early 20th century, the prison took in some less likely felons—violators of the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.

Why did these men with funny facial hair and Wild West mugshots go to jail for selling margarine? After New York’s U.S. Dairy Company began production of “artificial butter” in 1871, the Dairy industry pushed Congress to regulate the popular butter substitute. With the 1886 act, margarine was taxed and those who sold it had to get special licenses. The black-market Oleo gang went to prison for trying to pass the margarine off as butter and refusing to pay the taxes.


Caption Contest

The vast holdings of the National Archives are full of millions of photographs – many without context and captions. The good news? This leaves plenty of room for interpretation! With our caption contest, we invited you to invent your own caption for this Archives photo for a chance to win a special surprise from the National Archives Store!

The results are in and the winning caption for our first caption contest is:

“If that face launched one ship, it launched a million.”

Shoutout to some of our other favorites with these runner-ups:

  • “Hold on, the bottle’s empty. No wonder James is smiling.”
  • Harriet thought “Prenup” was an odd name for a boat.
  • “To safely practice social distancing, maintain at least 6 champagne bottles between you and–Herbert, are you listening to me? I WILL crack this bottle!”

Stay tuned for our next caption contest coming soon!

Marching towards 19

Who are the thousands of individuals on the periphery of this iconic photo of the 1913 Women’s March? Are they just more supporters of the suffrage movement?

They were the rowdy, mostly male crowd of onlookers who pressed in on the demonstration. Many women were verbally and physically assaulted while the police stood by, either unwilling or unable to control the crowd. The resulting outrage over the violence led to a congressional investigation and increased sympathy for women suffrage. Suffragist Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, recalls struggling during the march to “walk four abreast . . . [in a space] no wider than a single car track.”

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